“My overall impression of Dorothy [Dandridge] is as a very sweet, naive, gentle person, who always wanted to please and be liked. And I’m never too sure whether her ambition stemmed from her own inner desire or whether it was because of her mother and her distant aunt that she was living with.”-Dorothy Nicholas Morrow
Porgy and Bess was Dorothy Dandridge’s last major film and for the role of Bess producer Samuel Goldwyn considered no one else. With Dorothy paired with Sidney Poitier as the leads, Goldwyn believed they would bring the story to film as he envisioned it. The decision to play Bess was not an easy one for Dorothy. She believed that within the story of Porgy and Bess some basic truths were told about “the harsh, terrorized lives of Negroes forced to live in ghettoes.” She also felt to show true authenticity that, “Actually, the film should have been shot in the streets, in the shack-ridden quarters that fester throughout the South.” Fellow actor Harry Belafonte, who was initially considered for the role of Porgy called and role her, “Don’t do it, it isn’t right. I’m out of it.” Diahann Carroll who played Clara said, “I didn’t want to do it, because the racial stereotypes of Catfish Row held absolutely no attraction for me, and I was offended by the story.” Sidney Poitier rejected the offer to play Porgy also, but in the end, Samuel Goldwyn’s pull in Hollywood proved to be powerful as his role in The Defiant Ones was at risk if he didn’t honor the agreement to play Porgy made by his West Coast agent. He later said, “In my judgement Porgy and Bess was not material complimentary to Black people.” Dorothy told Sidney Poitier this of her decision to play Bess, “Look I have spoken with Mr. Goldwyn about this. He’s going to do this picture with or without me. He will do it with or without you. Now the way I’m thinking, if I can help to bring some dignity to the role, maybe that is what it needs.”
“In an age that celebrated Marilyn and Liz and Grace and Audrey, Dorothy Dandridge had brought the Black actress in films from behind the shadows and had emerged as Hollywood’s first authentic movie goddess of color. She had reconfigured the very definition of what a movie star was supposed to be.”-Donald Bogle
Dorothy Dandridge with her childhood friend, Dorothy Hughes McConnell, and her husband, Woodrow. They attended one of Dorothy’s performances at the Alhambra Tavern in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, during her two-week engagement there. After Dorothy’s performance they visited her in her dressing room. Also while in Cleveland, McConnell’s mother and friend to the family Genevieve Hughes, invited Dorothy over to her home for a luncheon with a few close friends and family. Dorothy asked Ms.Hughes to fix chitlins, corn muffins, greens, and coleslaw. The menu included two of Dorothy’s favorite dishes greens and chitlins. The article above was featured in Jet magazine’s June 19, 1952 issue courtesy of vieilles-annonces .
“[Dorothy] Dandridge’s image signaled that Black American women, rather than being exotics, were intelligent, elegant, sophisticated, and worldly. It was this aspect of Dandridge that made her so appealing and important to Black America. Had the movie industry provided her with choice, sophisticated roles, the perceptions of Black women in the consciousness of the American mass audience might have changed all the more dramatically.”-Donald Bogle
Dorothy Dandridge, Joyce Bryant, Lena Horne, and Diahann Carroll are legendary women who continue to inspire and captivate generation after generation with their magnificent beauty and talents!
“I ceased to have the motivations for ‘staying’ that dominate many or most actors and actresses after they have arrived.”-Dorothy Dandridge
“Whenever the phone rang in the tiny carton-cluttered office, Dorothy [Dandridge] picked up the receiver and said—in a grand theatrical manner—“Hello. Yes, this is Miss Dandridge.” If the caller on the other end was a friend, her tone and language immediately changed. “Hi, honey. How are you!” I would just laugh after that. She was just adorable. She was just as cute as she could be. Really a very sweet girl. I just loved her.”-William Roy
“She [Dorothy Dandridge] always was a very gentle, highly refined young lady. Soft spoken. No hard edges to her.”-Orin Borsten
“From my early teens I had wanted a romance to be just a simple idealistic thing, but instead it was always a game of fox and hounds, with me as the fox, of course.”-Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge speaking with director Laslo Benedek on the set of Malaga (1960) while co-star Trevor Howard listens in. Photo via acertaincinema.com
In the film Malaga, much like with Island in the Sun, Dorothy Dandridge’s character was not clearly identified by either race or nationality. The film’s producer Thomas Clyde wanted to approach the story “without any connection to color, any reference to the fact that she was a Colored girl.” He believed that in Malaga, Dorothy would prove herself “as a fine performer—and not as a symbol of her race.” The film’s director Laslo Benedek said, “ I thought this was a daring breakthrough to pair a Colored actress with Trevor Howard. And we all agreed, `Well, let’s try it.’” Dorothy told her manager Earl Mills of her character Gianna, “I don’t understand this girl.” She bemoaned, “What’s she about? Where does she come from emotionally?” What bothered Dorothy the most was the fact that while the scriptwriters believed that they were being quite daring by letting a Black actress play a non-racial role, they however were not courageous enough to transcend traditional racial codes. “No one knew what her nationality was to be in the picture. The problem as to whether Trevor Howard should kiss her on the screen was called ridiculous. This was Dorothy’s most frustrating acting experience by far,” said Earl Mills.
Dorothy Dandridge with her attorney, Robert S. Butts, outside a Los Angeles Superior courtroom where she was granted a divorce from Jack Denison on December 18, 1962. Butts also handled her divorce from her first husband, Harold Nicholas. Dorothy sought the divorce from Jack on the grounds of “extreme cruelty,” and she charged that he wrongfully “inflicted upon her grievous mental suffering.” She called for a restraining order to keep Jack away from her, stating that he had struck her on numerous occasions, and she requested that he be removed from her home. Jack told the press that he would not fight the divorce, ever the con artist he made it seem as though he was the ideal husband and simply the victim of circumstances and financial issues. Dorothy testified in court before Judge Burnett Wolfson saying, “He has a temper and he wanted to be a part of everything. He would shout and throw things and told me if I didn’t listen to him, I would never be successful.” She then added touchingly, “And I do have to be successful.” She went on to explain how this effected he career saying, “ I haven’t worked very much because of this hassle going on, but now with the divorce, I think I can get my career together, which I couldn’t have done previously.” Dorothy’s secretary Veada Cleveland, testified as a corroborating witness in her defense. Jack never appeared to answer the complaints against him. Dorothy’s second marriage lasted three years, four months, and one day.